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Sunday, January 1, 2012
Blackmon's lasting legacy at OSU is clear

By David Ubben

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Mike Gundy's been around football a long time. He's seen the story happen over and over.

Player shows up. Player works hard. Player gets good.

Too often, the next step isn't quite as encouraging.

Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon has built a reputation as a tireless worker at Oklahoma State.
"When you get guys that know they’re going to be top-10 picks in the draft, they don’t practice as well," Gundy said.

Justin Blackmon will almost certainly play his final game in an Oklahoma State uniform on Monday night in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford. He has yet to officially declare for the NFL draft, but after going through Senior Day festivities before a Bedlam win against Oklahoma, despite being a junior, it figures to be a formality.

Blackmon being a top-10 pick is also a near formality, with production and physical prowess that outclasses just about any receiver in college football.

But ask around, and what sticks out about Blackmon isn't his two Biletnikoff Awards, or any of his 224 catches or 3,118 yards the past two seasons. It's not even a single one of his 35 touchdown catches over that same span.

"It's his work ethic," said receiver Isaiah Anderson.

It shows up in blocking drills, when rep after rep, he proves he's the team's best blocking receiver, even if he's the team's best everything else, too, when it comes to receivers. That endears himself to the big guys, too, who know "he's willing to get in there and do what you do every day," said center Grant Garner.

It shows up in one-on-one drills and team drills, when he refuses to run a route at less than 100 percent, which also helps the offense maintain its timing from week to week, said quarterback Brandon Weeden.

During practice, he doesn't go off to the side and take a break, Gundy said. He'll keep working.

"A lot of guys that are that successful and that good think they don’t have to work hard, but there’s no question that Justin Blackmon shows up to practice every day and he’s one of, if not the hardest worker," Garner said. "That’s what makes him good."

Said Weeden: "He’s one of those guys that I think every program wishes they had a lot of him. There’s a lot of 81 jerseys running around Stillwater and Oklahoma. Rightfully so."

Over and over, players and coaches said the same thing about what comes to mind when they think of what Blackmon has brought Oklahoma State during his career.

"Obviously, he’s made a million plays. Everybody knows that," Gundy said. "Everybody’s different. Kendall Hunter was good in that way, but Kendall wasn’t a guy who knew he was going to be a top-10 pick. Blackmon just had the ability to get on the practice field and compete, and he’s never slowed down. Everybody’s put together different, and Blackmon’s wired differently than most great players are."

It makes sense, though. It's what he's been going for over the course of his career.

How does he want to be remembered?

"Someone who worked hard and loved to go out there and compete," he said. "If you work hard and you buy into the system and you’re coachable, things will work out in your favor."

Mission accomplished.